To be successful at the art of shaving, men need to consider the before, during, and after in equal measure. Prep the skin with warm water, apply your chosen shaving product like cream, and use a sharp razor. Post-shave steps are often neglected, but one of the most important products a man can use is a quality aftershave.
In this guide, we will review the best aftershaves – including the highly popular Baxter of California After Shave Balm. Furthermore, we will also look at a few of the key things that you need to consider when selecting the best aftershave lotion, splash, or balm for you.
First Time Buying Aftershave? Consider the Following
1. Alcohol vs. Alcohol-Free
While alcohol is an excellent astringent, applying it to an open wound or severe razor burn causes your skin to sting. This can be quite painful, depending on the severity of the wound. Additionally, alcohol will dry out your skin, which can lead to further irritation.
This is why many modern aftershaves are alcohol-free. These alcohol-free aftershaves often rely on witch hazel as the primary astringent.
2. Skin Type
There are a few things to be mindful of for specific skin types when buying aftershave:
- Dry Skin: Don’t use an alcohol-based formula. This will cause further dryness and discomfort. Instead, consider using an aftershave balm.
- Oily Skin: Some aftershaves contain rich conditioning agents, such as cocoa butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil, and more. These ingredients may clog pores, leading to pimples or blackheads. Instead, consider using a lighter aftershave splash or a non-comedogenic aftershave balm.
- Sensitive Skin: Many natural ingredients found in grooming products may irritate men with sensitive skin—patch test before applying. Consider using a fragrant-free aftershave or one that has been specially formulated for sensitive skin.
The range of scents available in aftershaves varies. Typical scent profiles include fresh, invigorating, barbershop, and bay rum. Scent is a highly personal choice and one that should be considered carefully.
Should you wear cologne, body spray, or another personal fragrance, consider an aftershave that compliments the scent; or simply go with a fragrant-free formula. This will prevent the scent from clashing with other products you may be applying.
4. Aftershave Type
Aftershaves are available in three primary types: splashes, lotions, and balms. Splashes typically focus on disinfectant, astringent, and toning benefits, whereas lotions and balms focus on nourishment and moisturizing benefits.
If you intend on moisturizing your skin with a face cream once you have finished shaving, consider a splash. If you don’t moisturize with a separate product, then go with an aftershave lotion or balm.
Further Reading: We wrote a primer about aftershave should you want to learn more about the nuances of this grooming product.
Baxter of California is a premium men’s grooming company that has been in business since 1965. While acquired by L’Oreal in 2012, they continue on the mission of making uncompromising grooming products.
Their aftershave balm, although pricey, is well-made. It has been designed to focus solely on nourishing and soothing the most irritated skin. Relying on a blend of aloe vera, allantoin, tea tree oil, menthol, and glycerin, you can expect a luxurious slick texture that will tone and cool your skin upon application.
However, men with highly sensitive skin may want to consider another aftershave as some ingredients may irritate – particularly the tea tree oil.
The balm is alcohol-free, so it will never sting, even when applied to severe razor burn. Lastly, you can expect a light and fresh scent.
- Size: 4oz.
- Does it sting? No
- Scent: Light and Fresh
- Type: Aftershave Balm
Pros: Soothes and nourishes even the most irritated skin—well-made formula.
Cons: It may not work well for sensitive skin. For an aftershave balm, it’s pricey.
The Bottom Line:
2. Most Invigorating: Duke Cannon Cooling After-Shave Balm
Duke Cannon isn’t only a great company that gives back to the men and women that served in the United States military, but they also make tried-and-true grooming products such as their “Big Ass Brick of Soap” (reviewed here).
The cooling aftershave balm reviewed, we think, is best suited for men who love an invigorating start to their day.
The menthol-heavy formula is bright and will give your pores that pleasant but non-stinging sensation.
Also added to the aftershave balm is shea butter, which is naturally non-comedogenic and a highly effective moisturizer for your skin. Lastly, the addition of sandalwood fragrance provides a classic barbershop smell to finish things off.
Altogether the formula will soothe razor burn while also reducing redness or tightness.
At $15 and 6oz., the aftershave balm is fairly priced but does have some travel limitations.
Made in the USA, and a portion of the proceeds benefit U.S. Veterans, what’s not to love about this aftershave balm?
- Size: 6oz.
- Does it sting? No
- Scent: Sandalwood
- Type: Aftershave Balm
Pros: Invigorating and cooling formula moisturizes well. It is fairly priced.
Cons: Large container isn’t suitable for road warriors. The scent is a bit polarizing.
The Bottom Line:
3. Best Gel: Jack Black Post Shave Cooling Gel
Jack Black, owned by Edgewell (Schick, Cremo, Bulldog, Wilkinson Sword, and more), is a prestige beauty line for men who prefer luxury and mostly naturally-derived grooming products.
While expensive ($20 per bottle), the Jack Black Post Shave Cooling Gel is a light aftershave that will soothe and cool your skin post-shave.
The formula relies on aloe leaf, sage, lavender, rosemary, chamomile, balm mint, and more. All of which should reduce post-shave redness and provide necessary moisture to your skin. There are no added fragrances to the aftershave, making it a consideration should you have sensitive skin or want to apply a cologne or body spray.
For consistency, this aftershave is a gel formula. While not as silky-smooth as some other balms reviewed, it should feel much lighter in weight when applied. For value, you can expect the travel-friendly 3.3oz container to last you two months before replacement.
- Size: 3.3oz
- Does it sting? No
- Scent: Fragrance-Free (has a very light fresh scent)
- Type: Aftershave Gel
Pros: Lightweight gel that nourishes the skin. The fragrance-free formula is suitable for sensitive skin.
Cons: Expensive. Some may prefer a richer texture instead of a gel.
The Bottom Line:
If you want a lightweight aftershave gel that nourishes and cools the skin post-shave, then it works well. While expensive, it’s great to see that Jack Black uses a rich blend of quality and natural ingredients.
4. Best Lotion: DIOR Sauvage After-Shave Lotion
- A subtle masculine scent from the World-renowned brand Dior
- Cleans and protects your skin after shaving
- Leaves skin feeling fresh and light compared to heavier aftershaves
Recommended For: Any man that feels the way they smell is an important factor in how they present themselves to the world, who also enjoys a close shave and the cooling sensation of an aftershave.
Voted the Best Aftershave, DIOR Sauvage combines the unique scent of Sauvage with the cooling sensation of their other aftershave lotions. This product is lighter than other aftershaves and will leave you feeling fresh.
- The scent of Sauvage is appealing to men and women alike
It’s okay to want to smell like a man, in the best sense of the word. Sauvage is described by DIOR as “a man who transcends time and fashion.” In our research, we came across many women who had given this as a gift for their husbands and were quite happy they did. The quality is what makes this our best aftershave lotion.
- A combination of Bergamot and Ambergris give this lotion a unique scent
Bergamot is a citrus that when used in Sauvage gives this product the fresh clean scent that you want in an aftershave. The Ambergris is what really makes this product unique, giving it a mild, but unmistakable, woody scent
- This is a lighter lotion, leaving your face feeling light and clean
Many aftershave lotions can feel heavy to men leaving their face feeling sticky. Sauvage is a thinner aftershave that still works to help relieve the effects of razor burn.
- An unparalleled scent, leaving your face feeling fresh and cool
- Combine with the whole line of Sauvage products
- Lighter aftershave lotion on the skin
- May not provide as much moisturizing as some men need by itself
- Alcohol and scents may irritate those with sensitive skin
What You Need To Know
5. Best Bay Rum: Clubman Pinaud Virgin Island Bay Rum Aftershave
- This aftershave has a classic light scent of a Bay Rum cologne
- Thin body and classic composition
- This aftershave is a great value for a daily use product
Recommended For: Men who shave regularly and want a light, classic scent in an aftershave that is too heavy or thick.
Bay Rum products feature a warm, classic scent you immediately recognize and love. This is our best bay rum aftershave for several reasons. This light-bodied aftershave helps to cool and tone skin all while leaving you smelling fantastic.
- Light body and classic composition
This bay rum aftershave features a light body, which is great for men that do not want to put anything on that is too oily and can leave their skin feeling greasy. The alcohol in this aftershave works to clean, tone, and relieve skin of razor burn symptoms.
- Scent that is pleasant, but doesn’t overpower
Bay Rum is a classic scent full of warm-smelling ingredients. This bottle has a well-balanced fragrance, so you do not smell like the day after a frat party. Men said the scent was lingering, but not overpowering.
- It is priced right for a daily-use item
The 11-ounce bottle is priced at a point that allows for daily use without feeling like you are breaking the bank. You get all of the features of a more expensive aftershave; cooling and toning skin, relieving razor burn, a pleasant scent, without having to pay a price that other brands might charge.
- This light-bodied aftershave helps your face feel cool and fresh
- The classic bay rum scent is not overpowering but is pleasant smelling
- Priced right for a daily use item
- Maybe too thin for men with much dryer skin who want more of a balm
What You Need To Know
6. Best for Gift Giving: Pre de Provence After Shave Balm
- A moisturizing balm that provides a more soothing experience
- Unique and masculine scent made with citrusy bergamot, sage, and thyme
- An incredible blend of ingredients for a wide range of benefits
- Nice presentation box and package design make it great for gift-giving
Recommended For: Men who may experience any degree of razor rash, acne, cracked or dry skin. The wonderful scent from natural ingredients as well as the powerful benefits makes this a product any man would love to receive.
Pre de Provence aftershave balm is our winner of the award for the best aftershave for gift giving. Something that a man might not buy himself, but wonders how he lived without it afterward. A powerful formula so that a little balm goes a long way. Smell wonderful and feel great doing it.
- This balm gives a little extra care to your skin
With the infusion of shea butter, this balm takes its hydration properties to the next level, and while 2.5 ounces might not sound like much, a little dab will do you. Along with aloe vera, shea butter provides lasting hydration for your face that helps to alleviate so many of the uncomfortable and unsightly symptoms of razor burn
- A craft combination of natural ingredients for a wonderful scent
The natural citrus scent comes from the bergamot, a common fruit found throughout the Mediterranean. The citrus scent gives a distinct scent of cleanliness to the balm. This scent is supplemented by other natural herbal scents like sage and thyme.
- A power-house of ingredients
Besides the shea butter and aloe vera that instill incredible moisture in your skin, this unique formula features allantoin, maybe the most common ingredient you may have never heard of. Renowned the world over for its skin healing properties allantoin helps to hydrate your skin so you will be feeling great and looking younger.
- A powerful, but simple formula that provides superior benefits
- Super-hydrating, a little goes a long way
- Clean, earthy scent is pleasant but not overwhelming
- Maybe too thick for some people’s comfort who prefer more traditional, thin aftershaves
What You Need To Know
7. Affordable: NIVEA Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm
- This aftershave balm is priced at a value from a name brand you can trust
- Works excellently for men with sensitive skin
- This unique formula works to soothe irritated skin and provide superior moisture
Recommended For: Men who are looking for the superior relief that an aftershave balm can provide from razor burn, that works even for men with sensitive skin.
This is our best cheap aftershave, cheap not because it is poor in quality, but because it is priced right! This aftershave is great for men who have sensitive skin that can become very irritated after shaving. This extremely moisturizing product relieves irritation and works to keep skin looking younger and healthier.
- Works to moisturize skin after shaving
This aftershave balm is a powerful moisturizer, and is also alcohol-free, which is important because alcohol can dry out skin already irritated from shaving. This formula is not so heavy that it will leave you feeling sticky, but it will provide your face with ample moisture to relieve the unpleasant and unsightly symptoms of razor burn.
- Its ingredients help support a range of other benefits
Besides being a powerful moisturizer, this balm does a lot more for your skin. Vitamin E is a powerful anti-inflammatory that keeps your skin cool and calm. Witch hazel is an astringent that helps keep skin clean and toned. This product will help all the causes of skin irritation while proactively keeping your skin looking healthy and young.
- This is our best cheap aftershave
When we say cheap, we do not mean poor quality, we mean an excellent value. This product is comparable to products that can cost twice as much. The balm is thick enough so that it does not take much product to achieve results, but not so heavy that you feel greasy after using.
- Powerful ingredients work to relieve razor burn from multiple causes
- Light scented, alcohol-free balm that works for all skin types
- The range of ingredients makes this balm a tremendous value
- Some men prefer thinner after-shaves or non-scented balms.
What You Need To Know
8. Best Splash: Proraso Aftershave Splash
- Our best aftershave splash because the unique ingredients like menthol provide a stronger cooling sensation compared to other aftershaves.
- Light-bodied splash that gives you a refreshing, soothing feeling that relieves skin irritation from shaving and helps to keep your skin feeling cool and fresh.
- Compact container makes it easy to throw in your gym bag or toiletry bag while travelling
Recommended For: Men who want a lighter, more traditional aftershave that won’t weigh them down or leave them smelling like a forest fire.
Voted our best aftershave splash, this Prosaro aftershave lotion hits all the notes that you want in a classic aftershave. The menthol and eucalyptus provide a cooling sensation and scent that also help relieve skin irritation after shaving.
- Classic light-bodied aftershave
Splash a little on and go about your day. The light formula instantly cools and tones your skin, and isn’t so heavy you have to wash your hands after application.
- The addition of witch hazel provides added benefits for your skin
Witch hazel is a tried and true astringent. It will help to keep your skin clean and provides immediate toning to the areas it is applied to.
- Menthol gives a great scent and drives home the cool feeling of this aftershave
The addition of menthol gives this aftershave added dimensions too. Along with alcohol, menthol lends a more lasting cooling sensation after shaving and helps to relieve any irritation.
- Light-body is perfect for daily use and men with oily skin
- Combination of menthol and alcohol providing a cooling sensation and a light, clean scent
- Natural ingredients lend superior relief from irritated skindue to shaving
- May need to be supplemented with a moisturizer for men with dryer skin types.
What You Need To Know
Why should I use aftershave?
You should use aftershave regardless of your skin type to disinfect and provide soothing qualities to your skin. Remember, that shaving will cause irritation no matter what. Depending on skin type, this irritation could be better or worse. Using an aftershave will help you combat irritation and razor burn.
Can I use aftershave if I’m sunburned?
Yes, in fact, many aftershaves can be used if you haven’t shaved at all. Aftershave creams and lotions with aloe vera, tea tree oil, and other ingredients that can help your skin heal more quickly after a sunburn. Avoid any aftershave lotions or balms that have alcohol.
Can aftershave help acne?
Yes, the correct aftershave can help acne by keeping the freshly shaved skin clean and free of bacteria and also helping to repair and moisturize skin. Your doctor may also recommend aftershave that can be used to help your acne and soothe skin.
Can aftershave expire?
Aftershave with fragrance will certainly expire in that the scent will fade. Additionally, if you’re using aftershave that is derived from natural ingredients, you should look carefully at the best by date.
Can aftershave prevent ingrown hairs?
Aftershave itself does not prevent ingrown hairs, but washing your skin with a high-quality scrub or soap after shaving, then following with an aftershave can help a great deal.
Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn’s expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.